Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who will be faced with the decision whether or not to accept the police recommendation to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery and corruption, expressed support on Thursday for the police investigators in the case. He also pledged to make a decision on indicting the prime minister “without unnecessary delay.”
The investigation, he said “was conducted by the book, with professionalism, creativity and constantly seeking to discover the truth.” Speaking at Tel Aviv University, the attorney general denied reports of friction between the police on one hand and the staff of his office and the prosecutor’s office on the other.
“We ignore the background noise. There were various opinions and always have been, including various parties within the prosecution. I suggest addressing the reports of friction between the agencies and inside them with a great deal of skepticism.”
The remarks at Tel Aviv University were Mendelblit’s first since the police released their recommendations on Tuesday. “The release of the recommendations in the cases against Netanyahu was done with my approval and the approval of the state prosecutor [Shai Nitzan] as is accepted [practice],” the attorney general said. “All of the parties involved in the investigation have worked and are working as trustees of the rule of law,” he added.
Mendelblit, a former cabinet secretary to Netanyahu, was asked whether in light of the fact that the two are well acquainted with one another, it would be difficult to inform the prime minister that an indictment will be filed against him.
The attorney general suggested that they were not in fact close friends, noting that he had never visited the Netanyahu's private residence in Caesarea and had only visited the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem a number of times in an official capacity. Mendelblit said he had accepted the position of cabinet secretary "on the condition that I not be like prior cabinet secretaries, but only professional. Politics doesn’t interest me."
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"Of course it would be difficult for me to file [an indictment] against any prime minister. That's not an easy thing. I seek the truth. If that will be the evidence and that's the decision, I won't have a problem."
In comments on the regular protests outside his house by demonstrators protesting government corruption and initially also about what was seen as Mendelblit's foot-dragging in investigations against Netanyahu, the attorney general said: "The demonstrations haven't influenced me by a millimeter. Nothing. Zero. The test is professional. There is no chance that something like this would influence me. We don't work like that." Demonstrations need to be conducted according to rules set down by the Supreme Court, he said, but "I absolutely support the right of people to demonstrate, even against me."
The Israel Television News Company reported on Wednesday that senior officials in the state prosecutor’s office have been highly critical of police conduct regarding the recommendations in the investigations against Netanyahu, saying that not all of the assertions in the recommendation are backed by evidence. Reporter Guy Peleg said prosecution staff believe the police also tried to create the impression that Mendelblit held up the release of the recommendations. The police, they reportedly believe, put the attorney general in an “impossible situation” if he retreats at all from what the police recommended. According to the television news report, prosecution staff also believe that additional investigative work will have to be carried out before a decision on an indictment is made.
One of the two police investigations, dubbed Case 1000, involves suspicions that Netanyahu accepted lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors in return for advancing their interests. The second, Case 2000, is a probe into allegations that the prime minister tried to strike a deal that would have provided him with positive coverage in Israel’s second largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, in exchange for hurting its free rival, Israel Hayom.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing, saying that there is nothing improper about accepting gifts from friends. With regard to discussions with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, Arnon Mozes, the prime minister said he never intended to follow through on the discussions.